ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A 22-year-old Alaska woman said on Wednesday that she punched a black bear in the face to save her small dog from being carried off and possibly eaten.
Juneau resident Brooke Collins said she hit the bear Sunday night to save the life of her dachshund, Fudge. She said she discovered the bear crouched down, clutching Fudge in its paws and biting the back of the dog's neck.
"It had her kind of like when they eat salmon," Collins said Wednesday. "I was freaking out. I was screaming at it. My dog was screaming. I ran up to it ... I just punched it right in the snout and it let go."
Collins said her boyfriend then scared the bear away. "I think it was more startled than anything," she said.
Collins, a hairdresser who has lived in Juneau most of her life, said she is accustomed to bears and knows how to take precautions around them.
She also knew about this particular bear before Sunday's attack because it has been hanging around the neighborhood.
In this case, however, Fudge darted out the door before anyone checked the vicinity, she said.
The dog, an older female, was not seriously hurt in the attack, but Collins said she is tending to the animal's wounds and keeping her inside for now. Collins said she is also taking other precautions with her second dog.
Black bears frequently roam the downtown section of Alaska's capital city, which rests against a steep mountain slope and is surrounded by a dense rain forest.
Bear encounters are on the rise this year, despite efforts by local residents to lock away garbage and remove items that might attract the animals, said Neil Barton, a Juneau-based biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
"This year, I think, is a lot worse than last year. I would attribute that to lack of a berry crop," Barten said.
Production of berries around Juneau has been poor this summer, removing a key food source from the bears' diets.
"If they are not available, the bears look for other sources of food," he said.
Bears and dogs sometimes snarl at each other, but actual attacks on dogs are unusual, he said.
Collins said her dog Fudge has chased bears but never been attacked before.
The black bear she punched returned Tuesday, she said, because it was a trash pick-up day.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jerry Norton)